Friday was momentous. I had my first experience of dealing quietly with a situation to protect my students, and myself, from the principal. Don’t worry, they don’t see it that way, they are firmly convinced that I wage a continual war against all things fun. The story:
A boy in my year 10 class stumbled across my carefully disguised Facebook page by finding the page of a colleague I was friends with and seeing a comment I had written. From there, he found a photograph of me taken by another teacher at the year 12 formal and published publicly to my timeline. He took a copy of this picture and transferred it to photoshop where he painstakingly cut my head out of the picture. He took a photograph of himself and repeated the cutting process. He then pasted the two heads onto this background:
The completed artwork was published to his own timeline as his cover photo.
I am told this sequence of events took place approximately two months ago.
The aim was to roll plastic collision trolleys down friction ramps at different heights (and therefore at different speeds) and investigate how far from the trolley plasticine people were propelled at the different speeds when they hit a 2kg weight. Simple, fun and relevant to people about to obtain Learner Driver Licences. Once the kids seemed to be working, I performed the prac up the front to make sure that some accurate numerical data existed for a graph at the end. My average-ability/below-average-interest-level class however, were much less amused than I was by the fun toys.
What they were supposed to concentrate on:
What they DID concentrate on:
When I saw what they were doing, I asked them if I could take photographs of their work to show the other teachers and I also expressly asked if I could put pictures of what they had built on the internet. I was thinking of this blog, but their minds jumped straight to Facebook. They all gave instant permission, and a group of my boys huddled in the corner looking something up on an iPad.
When I finished taking the pictures with my own iPad, the group of boys came over and showed me the Facebook account of the Aspiring Jesse Pinkman (AJP) with his Breaking Bad photoshop art. I was shocked, and they were apprehensive. I settled on the routine of “who, what, when, where, why, how” and obtained the information I listed at the beginning.
It was an interesting artwork with a strange correlation with the show. For those of you not familiar with Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman was Walter White’s student and together they begin to cook Crystal Meth. When Jesse was a student, he was a lacklustre chemist and he did not appreciate his teacher in the least. In fact, there are hand-drawn artworks of Mr. White looking less than flattering……
What I was thinking: the photo is not in the least offensive and it’s clever. However, if the principal should see this, I could be in trouble because of the drug references. If evil students see this, it sets a precedent of creating photoshopped graphics of teachers and displaying them publicly on the internet, thereby destroying some of their credibility. If I do nothing, and someone else discovers this and does something, they will immediately say “Ms. Blue saw it and didn’t care”.
The situation of a colleague dealing with something I failed to deal with was one I had to circumvent at all costs. There is nothing worse than having a colleague pull you up for being ‘unprofessional’.
I wanted to tell the boys that the art was clever. I could not. I wanted to ask them for a copy. I could not. Instead, I zipped up my supersuit, pulled down my mask and said: “hand me that iPad please”. With them all watching, I deleted the photo from Facebook and allowed the boy to choose a new cover photo. I signed out of AJP’s Facebook for him, and said “all the boys in this group will remain behind for five minutes at the end of the lesson.”
I used the rest of the lesson to devise a speech:
I explained that it was technically fine for them to create anything they wished to and that they could share such material with their friends. I went on to explain that part of the photo they created belonged to me because it was an image of me and that I had not given them permission to publish it to the internet. I asked them how they might feel if I created something using a photo of them and published it to my Facebook, but they still didn’t empathise.
They left saying things such as “unfair” and “over-reaction” and they complained that only two of them were really involved, despite the fact that they had all been present and encouraging during the creation of the artwork.
The truth is, kids making fun of teachers has gone from:
*passed around room behind your back*
= even kids and parents who are not from your school forming a negative image of your professionalism.
It’s a significant issue, one that the teaching profession has not really kept up with very well. There are times where student created artworks can give you some ‘street cred’ such as the one I was forced to delete from AJP’s Facebook. But there are definitely times where something slanderous could be created and circulated that is not conducive to a learning environment.
Facebook itself is a significant issue in the working lives of many professional people and I do not agree with those who say that professionals should not have Facebook. I demarcate my working and home lives very strongly and I should not have to curb my social interactions outside of school because teenagers do not understand basic respectful behaviours. I think it has come time for parents to step up and explicitly teach their children the meaning of internet courtesy and respectful conduct.